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Robert Cochrane  (1931-1966)

 

Written and compiled by George Knowles.

Robert Cochrane (real name Roy Leonard Bowers) was by all counts an impressive, flamboyant, charismatic yet controversial person whose contribution to the rise of contemporary witchcraft, was perhaps overshadowed by that of Gerald Gardner.  Cochrane was a practicing English witch who had founded his own coven the “Clan of Tubal Cain”, at about the same time as Gerald Gardner started his first coven in the early fifties.  As Gardner's coven formed the base of the Gardnerian tradition, so the Clan of Tubal Cain, after its import to America, became known as the “1734” tradition. 

Cochrane was born into a Methodist family on the 26th January 1931.  They lived in London, England, but much of his early life is somewhat obscure based as it is on his own telling.  He claimed to be a hereditary witch and at times spoke of a great-grandfather who supposedly practiced witchcraft in Warwickshire, he also referred to an Aunt Lucy who kept an impressive collection of 'Witchy' things in her home.  In one of his letters he describes her as a 'terrible old woman'.  Another claim was that he had ancestors who had been executed for witchcraft, and at other times a great uncle on his mother’s side who had been his teacher.  Then in contradiction to this he claimed his mother had taught him as her grandmother had taught her.  Whatever the truth none of the above has yet been proved.

During his teens it is thought that he sought out and found a teacher, most probably from a Druidic or Celtic tradition.  What is known for sure is that he studied books, did research and tried the best he could to recreate what he believed to be the Old Religion.  By his early twenties he had formed his own coven called the Clan of Tubal Cain (a reference to his work as a blacksmith).  This was around the time that the old witchcraft laws in England were being repealed, and about the same time Gerald Gardner started his first coven.  Cochrane held Gardner in distain and would frequently express his contempt for the Gardnerian Witches of his time.

His coven always work out doors, sometimes near to his home in London on a council estate in Slough, Berkshire or they would travel to more remote places like into the Mendip Hills situated in Somerset, or to the Brecon Beacons in Wales.  There they would don black hooded robes and while dancing and chanting around a fire built in the center of a circle, they would 'call down the power'.  They worshiped both the Horned God and the Goddess.  God was the goat-foot God of fire, craft and death, while the triple aspects of the Goddess ruled life, fate and destiny.  From their union was created the Horned God (also referred to as the young solar deity).

Cochrane was a talented poet and philosopher who loved to write in a cryptic and mystical manner.  His coven was based on a combination of Celtic mysticism and village Witchcraft philosophy.  He delivered his teachings in the manner of the Druids using poetry, riddles and folksongs as apposed to actual facts.  He and his wife Jean successfully combined traditional village Witchcraft (his ritual tools consisted of a cauldron, knife, cord, cup and a stone) and Druidic methods of training and practice with a guided meditation for creating an astral temple as a magickal tower of sanctuary.  He inspired research and evolution rather than a strict adherence to dogma, and once stated that: “A driving thirst for knowledge is the forerunner of wisdom”.

In the early sixties Cochrane began to correspond with an American witch called Joe Wilson, who started the tradition in America. The information he wrote in his letters to Wilson, plus articles he wrote for several periodicals of the time: Psychic News - (1963), Pentagram - (1964-66) and New Dimensions - (1965), form the bases of the tradition as it is practiced today.

As time went by Wilson and several of his American friends worked together to solve Cochrane’s puzzles and filled in the gaps in his letters.  Wilson gave copies of the letters to a number of other people who in turn did their own research and found their own answers.  As a result different covens were created, no two exactly alike, and so began the renamed 1734 Tradition.  Today each coven of the tradition is completely autonomous and there is no central authority.  The tradition has no common Book of Shadows, but Cochrane’s letters serve the same purpose and these are passed down from teacher to student in a similar fashion as the Book of Shadows in other traditions. 

The figure 1734 was originally one of Cochrane’s puzzles.  Cochrane himself described it in a letter to Joe Wilson dated the 12th Night (6th January) 1966, which reads: 

The order of 1734 is not a date of an event, but a grouping of numerals that mean something to a witch.  One that becomes seven states of wisdom is the Goddess of the Cauldron.  Three that are the Queens of the Elements, fire belonging to Man alone and the Blacksmith God.  Four are Queens of the Wind Gods.  The Jewish orthodoxy believe that whomever knows the Holy and Unspeakable name of God has absolute power over the world of form.  Very briefly the Name of God spoken as Tetragrammaton ('I amthat I am') breaks down in Hebrew to the letters IHVH, or the Adom Kadomon (The Heavenly Man).  Adom Kadomon is a composite of all Archangels - in other words a poetic statement of the names of the Elements.  So what the Jew and the Witch believe alike, is that the man who discovers the secret of the Elements controls the physical world. 1734 is the witch way of saying IHVH.”

 

Robert Cochrane.

 

Cochrane believed that different types of vision contained the various approaches to and apprehensions of truth: 'Poetic Vision' - inward access to dream images and symbols; 'Vision of Memory' - remembers past existences and past perfections; 'Magical Vision' - undertakes part of a Triad of services and contacts certain levels; 'Religious Vision' - admission to the True Godhead and part of true Initiation; 'Mystical Vision' - divine union with the Godhead with no form only energy present. 

In 1964 Doreen Valiente joined his group and was initiated into the Clan of Tubal-Cain.  Doreen however soon became disillusioned with Cochrane as she realized he was more fiction than fact.  Cochrane was becoming increasingly more controlling of his group and openly before his wife Jean; began an affair with one of the other women in his coven.  His wife left him and the other members of his coven grow more and more disenchanted.  His verbal attacks on Gardnerian Witches began to increase, which irked Doreen, and when she noticed his obsession with 'witches potions' (Cochrane by some accounts had become fascinated with psychedelic drugs derived from herbs) she left. 

Cochrane died on the 21st June 1966, on the eve of Summer Solstice in what would appear to be a ritual suicide.  He had ingested belladonna leaves, more commonly known as Deadly Nightshade.  Much speculation surrounds his death.  Some believe it was an accident, others believe it was plain suicide.  Still others, particularly his craft members believe that he appointed himself the “actual” male sacrifice, as is sometimes symbolically enacted at the height of the Summer Solstice.

Epitaph for a Witch

by Doreen Valiente

To think that you are gone over the crest of the Hill.
As the Moon passed from her fulness, riding the Sky,
And the White Mare took you with her.
To think that we must wait another life
To drink wine from the Horns and leap the Fire.
Farewell from this world, but not the Circle.
That place that is between worlds
Shall hold return in due time. Nothing is lost.
The half of a fruit from the Tree of Avalon
Shall be our reminder among the fallen leaves
This life treads underfoot. Let the rain weep.
Waken in sunlight from the realms of sleep!

While his early life is shrouded in mystery and his later life in controversy, Cochrane’s contribution to contemporary witchcraft lives on through his tradition.  A tradition that today continues to grow stronger, most particularly in America.  Whatever his personal faults, he was indeed a wonderful and wise teacher of the old ways.  His knowledge and wisdom can clearly be seen in his magazine articles and personal correspondences.  Sadly after his death many of his personal papers were destroyed by his family, then in 2001 his late widow gave legal copyright for all his letters and articles to a member of his original coven, Evan John Jones.

Evan John Jones with Robert Cochrane

Most of his articles and letters have now been re-printed for prosperity.  The "The Roebuck in the Thicket" by Robert Cochrane with Evan John Jones, edited and introduced by Michael Howard (Capall Bann Publishing 2001), contains his articles to Psychic News - (1963), Pentagram - (1964-66) and New Dimensions - (1965).  His letters can be found in a book called "The Robert Cochrane Letters" by Robert Cochrane with Evan John Jones, edited and introduced by Michael Howard (Capall Bann Publishing 2002), this contains his correspondence with Joe Wilson, his original contact in America, William Gray, a ceremonial magician and Norman Gills, a traditional witch and old style cunning man. 

“We teach by poetic inference, by thinking along lines that belong to the world of dreams and images.  There is no hard and fast teaching technique, no laid down scripture or law, for wisdom comes only to those who deserve it, and your teacher is yourself seen through a mirror darkly.  The answer to all things are in the Air – Inspiration, and the winds will bring you news and knowledge if you ask them properly.  The Trees of the Wood will gave you power, and the Waters of the Sea will give you patience and omniscience, since the Sea is a womb that contains a memory of all things".

 

Robert Cochrane   

 

(An extract from his third letter to Joe Wilson dated 1st February 1966).

Aside Note. 

While Cochrane during his time may have dabbled with “psychedelic drugs derived from herbs”.  There is no evidence that today’s members of the 1734 tradition, or any other tradition of that matter, use any type of drugs to aid ritual or vision.

Sources

Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft  - By Raven Grimassi

  The Robert Cochrane Letters - by Robert Cochrane with Evan John Jones, edited and introduced by Michael Howard

Websites

www.themystica.com/themystica.html

www.spiraltree.demon.co.uk/index.htm

www.mystical-www.co.uk 

 

First published on the 23rd March 2001, 20:22:26 © George Knowles

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Correspondence Tables:

 

IncenseCandlesColoursMagickal DaysStones and GemsElements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /

 

Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /

 

Other things of interest:

 

Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology)Esbats & Full MoonsLinks to Personal Friends & ResourcesWicca/Witchcraft ResourcesWhat's a spell?Circle Casting and Sacred Space /  Pentagram - PentacleMarks of a WitchThe Witches PowerThe Witches HatAn esoteric guide to visiting LondonSatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  /  Part 2 Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /  The History of ThanksgivingI have a Dream, the 1963 speach by civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King /  Auras by Graham Furnell - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

Sabbats and Rituals:

 

Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)

 

Rituals contributed by Crone:  Samhain / YuleImbolcOstara /  BeltaneLithaLammasMabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron MagickMirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrowFoxFrog and ToadsGoat / HoneybeeKangarooLionOwlPhoenixRabbits and HaresRavenRobin RedbreastSheep SpiderSquirrelSwansWild Boar /  Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow /  Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  ElderAlso see:  The Willow Tree (Folk Music)

 

Sacred Sites:

 

Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /

 

Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

 Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:   / Apophyllite  / Amber AmethystAquamarineAragoniteAventurineBlack TourmalineBloodstoneCalciteCarnelianCelestiteCitrineChrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / FluoriteGarnet /  Hematite Herkimer DiamondLabradoriteLapis LazuliMalachiteMoonstoneObsidianOpalPyriteQuartz (Rock Crystal)Rose QuartzRubySeleniteSeraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodaliteSunstoneThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakeningThe Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods

 

Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:

 

Murder by WitchcraftThe Fairy Witch of ClonmelA Battleship, U-boat, and a WitchThe Troll-Tear (A story for Children)Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-LanternThe Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark

 

Old Masters of Academia:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)

 

Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the MageAgrippaAidan A. KellyAlbertus Magnus “Albert the Great”Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” Alison HarlowAmber KAnna Franklin /  Anodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey  / Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite Austin Osman SpareBiddy EarlyBridget ClearyCarl Llewellyn WeschckeCecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey LelandCharles Walton /  Christina Oakley Harrington /  Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) /   Dion FortuneDolores Aschroft-NowickiDorothy MorrisonDoreen ValienteEdward FitchEleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” /  Dr. John Dee and Edward KellyDr. Leo Louis Martello /  Eliphas LeviErnest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry /  Fiona Horne /  Friedrich von SpeeFrancis Barrett /  Gerald B. GardnerGavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gwydion PendderwenHans Holzer /  Helen DuncanHerman Slater "Horrible Herman" /  Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" MurrellJanet Farrar & Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne John George Hohman /  John GerardJohn Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJohannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von EckartshausenLaurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis Spence /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General”Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata /  Monique Wilson the “Queen of the WitchesMontague SummersNicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellersMrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-RavenheartOld Dorothy ClutterbuckOld George Pickingill /   Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsusPatricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip Emmons Isaac Bonewits Philip HeseltonRaymond BucklandReginald ScotRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /  Rudolf Steiner /  Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & DruidsSabrina - The Ink WitchScott CunninghamSelena FoxSilver Ravenwolf /  Sir Francis DashwoodSir James George FrazerS.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  StarhawkStewart FarrarSybil LeekTed AndrewsThe Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather /  Thomas AdyVera Chapman /  Victor Henry AndersonVivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest

 

 

Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)

 

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